17 February 2016

Edward Quin's historical atlas

A first encounter with the historical atlas published in 1830 by Edward Quin was the highlight of the Works on Paper fair for me. (Though I was very tempted to buy a woodcut of geese by Watanabe Setei.)
"Historical Atlas in a Series of Maps of the "Known World" from 2348 BC to AD 1828"
The known world - known at the date the map represents - is shown emerging from dark clouds. What an amazing concept ... what a lot of black printing ink (aquatint). The clouds have splendid edges -
AD 912 - Dissolution of the empire of Charlemagne

These prints, which the gallerist suggested would look well on a staircase, getting ever darker as you ascended, were once part of a book, and I think they suit the book format better than being framed prints. As you turn the pages, you make the clouds disperse.

Fortunately we have youtube to show us this phenomenon - see it all happen in less than a minute here - and there's a gif of the sequence here. It starts with the deluge, and finishes with the Northwest Passage still undiscovered.

Quin's approach to cartography followed a trend from the 18th century trend that tried to present historical change as a consistent and unified whole. His innovation is shown in the use of dark clouds to obscure the unknown areas of the world

The work was intended to educate schoolchildren about the history of the world, giving a rapid view of all great political changes in human society. Of particular note are the maps showing the Garden of Eden and the Discovery of America. The final map depicts the 'End of the General Peace' in 1828.

Called to the bar in 1820, Quin died at the age of 34, in the year his atlas was published. It went through several editions.

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